KABUL, Afghanistan

Afghanistan on Wednesday began free distribution of bread at bakeries for the poor and needy as the coronavirus lockdown continues in the country.

Up to 250,000 needy families in the capital Kabul will begin receiving ten flat naan breads per day in the first phase of the project, the Kabul Municipality announced.

Kabul Mayor Mohammad Dawood Sultanzoy said the project aims at addressing the basic need of those worst affected by the lockdown measures due to the pandemic.

“The bakeries that have the capacity to distribute bread to the deserving have been selected for the project considering their compliance with health guidelines as well as the quality and quantity of the bread,” he said.

A day earlier, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani announced the bread distribution project would be replicated in other worst affected cities, including Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, Kandahar, Kunduz and Jalalabad.

“You are all informed that the government intends to embark on fundamental programs/projects such as building hydropower dams, launching short-term agricultural projects and constructing streets in rural areas … Despite the plight and challenges of coronavirus, we have arranged our plans/programs in a manner to minimize or zero the possibility of a budget shortfall,” he said in a statement.

Afghanistan faced up to the COVID-19 challenge almost three months after the new coronavirus was first detected in China last December.

The threat came knocking on the country’s western border with Iran, when thousands of panicked Afghan refugees started returning, voluntarily or otherwise, with evident symptoms of COVID-19.

Over recent days, thousands more have come back from eastern neighbor Pakistan without any health checks or other safety measures.

By Wednesday, Afghan health authorities confirmed a total of 1,939 positive cases of the novel coronavirus out of a total of 9,443 tests conducted nationwide.

So far, 256 people have recovered while 61 patients died.

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